Taxes are just about set for county residents

Published 5:31 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

 Pearl River Co.’s six major governing bodies that set taxes have just about completed the process of drawing up their budgets and adopting their millage rates for the coming fiscal year.

Here’s how it looks.

Picayune held the line for its general fund, cutting back and not adding any additional, or new, millage to support that fund, which is supported with ad valorem and sales taxes. Sales taxes make up about half of the tax revenue for the city budget.

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But one thing that hit the Picayune council this year was the deplorable condition of city streets. It became apparent that years of neglect and just patching had taken its toll and the only thing the city could do was, do it all at once and get it over with.

That is what Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr., and the council did, while interest rates are low, and that’s why there was a 6.37-mill increase tacked onto city tax bills. It seems that citizens agreed because there was little, if any, blowback on the proposal. Huey Stockstill on Tuesday was awarded the contract, bidding $6.3 million on the project, which is expected to get underway in October and take a year.

The Picayune school board asked for a million dollars in taxes to make up for a $2 million shortfall in their budget, caused by state tax cuts. They got only 3.90 mills to take care of bonds and GED classes and the Picayune City Council ignored the million-dollar request. School officials said 26 slots for teachers went unfilled in order to try and close the budget shortfall. They said they had cut to the bone.

The school board request, in dollar amounts, the funds it needs from the city council and the council transposes how much millage will have to be applied on taxpayers to raise what the school board needs.

There was some discussion behind the scenes about whether or not the city council “had to” pass on the million dollar request by the school board, but city officials in ignoring it cited a state law that said operational millage was capped at 55 mills and the Picayune school board was already at 55 mills.

City attorney Nathan Farmer told councilman Todd Lane on Tuesday that the council acts as an agent for the State Tax Commission and voting against any school board increase would not stop it from going through. Farmer’s answer was in response to a question by Lane about what would happen if the council voted not to okay the school board’s request.


Anyway the Picayune school district residents are looking at a 3.90 mill increase this year on their tax bills. Part of the Picayune separate municipal school district juts into the county. Three members of the five-member school board are appointed by the council and two are elected in districts outside the city limits.

Other school boards in the county: Poplarville had no tax increase, and Pearl River County school board at Carriere asked supervisors for a 3.81 additional millage increase. Orginally the request was for 5.11 mills, but Tuesday the board trimmed the request back.

If things get harder and the county’s three school systems face more cuts, at some point, I believe, the school districts are going to have to look at combining services, like school bus maintenance and other cooperative efforts.

Also at some point county leaders, representatives from the schools, cities and counties, might look at if merging the administrative operations would save money. Many states have only one overall school administration on a countywide basis, or a true county school district.

If Pearl River Co. did that, you would have five elected school board members, each elected from a supervisor’s beat and one appointed superintendent. Don’t worry, Picayune, Poplarville and Pearl River Central would still maintain their high school football programs. The only change would occur in administration. That’s just a suggestion.

But ask yourself: If it got bad enough that extra-curricula activities, including football, had to be cut, would you be willing to insitutute a countywide school district to save those programs.

It really is up to the citizens. If you want to support three fully staffed school districts, then have at it. It will cost you dearly over the coming years.

Supervisors have held the line on new taxes for two consecutive years. They have cut and cut, against tremendous pressure from some departments to increase millage to meet proposed budget requests.

I personnally commend them for the tough job of holding the line on taxes, but I, too, wonder how much we can cut into departments. Citizens will probably start looking at less services as budget cuts sink in and take effect.

The only answer is for the economy to bounce back and, for us locally, to attract a larger industrial base. Jobs!